Many people turn to home improvement loans even though saving up and paying cash for home improvements is often the least expensive option. After all, when you pay cash, you don’t have to pay interest. However, sometimes home improvements come in the form of emergency repairs, and paying interest on a loan is less costly than saving up to pay cash while your roof leaks for months and causes mold, rot and damaged ceilings that will cost even more to repair later.
What’s more, sometimes making a necessary change to a house to keep it livable makes more sense than moving, even if you have to borrow. And some people just won’t want to wait to make upgrades; they’ll prefer to borrow now for that nice kitchen and pay off the project over time. Whatever the reason, if you’re going to borrow money for home improvements, you should know what your options are and which ones might be best for your situation.
Traditional Home Improvement Loans
A traditional home improvement loan lets homeowners borrow a lump sum to pay for the necessary labor and materials to complete projects such as remodeling a kitchen or bathroom, adding a swimming pool to the backyard or replacing an aging HVAC system. Credit unions, traditional banks and online lenders offer home improvement loans. These are unsecured loans, meaning the homeowner doesn’t provide any collateral for the loan. As a result, the interest rate will be higher than it would be for a secured loan, such as a home equity loan.
The interest rate will also depend on the borrower’s credit score, the loan term and the amount borrowed. For example, SunTrust Bank offers home improvement loans for $5,000 to $9,999 with terms of 24 to 36 months and interest rates of 6.79% to 12.79% (rates include an autopay discount of 0.50%), while a loan of $50,000 to $100,000 for the same amount of time comes with an interest rate of 4.79% to 10.29%.
Personal Loans and Personal Lines of Credit
A personal loan gives borrowers an unsecured lump sum that can be used for any purpose. People use personal loans to start businesses, pay for vacations, consolidate debt and more. Like a home improvement loan, but unlike a home equity loan, a personal loan doesn’t require collateral and doesn’t put your home or other assets at risk. That being said, a lower interest rate and/or larger loan amount may be available by getting a secured personal loan rather than an unsecured one. Borrowing minimums are low, as are loan fees, and you can get a personal loan even if you don’t have any home equity. These loans are also typically funded quickly. (For more, see 8 Possible Risks of Unsecured Personal Loans and 6 Ways to Get the Best Personal Loan Rate.)
A personal line of credit is similar to a personal loan, except that instead of borrowing a lump sum all at once, the borrower can draw upon a line of credit as needed for a certain number of years. A line of credit can help homeowners avoid borrowing more than they need to by letting them access cash only as they need it. But for homeowners who don’t carefully track their borrowing, a line of credit can make it easy to borrow more than intended. Many small draws on the credit line over time can add up to a large total amount borrowed.
The repayment period for a traditional home improvement loan, personal loan or line of credit is usually shorter than the repayment period for a home equity loan or line of credit. The borrower may pay less in interest over time as a result, although monthly loan payments may be higher.